Wednesday, October 31, 2012

To run, or not to run.....that is the question

Hubby and I are ready to go to New York on Friday morning so we can run the New York Marathon on Sunday....

As of right now, Marathon Officials say the race is on; that adjustments might be made, but come Sunday morning, runners should be able to get over to Staten Island to wait for the race to start.

Honestly, I have some mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, I am THRILLED to be running the marathon and ECSTATIC to be able to run this with Hubby.   It will be his second marathon ever and our first running one together.  He has trained hard, is running really well, isn't injured and is excited to run the race.

He entered as a charity runner, raising money for UNICEF.  He did a great job working to gather contributions and has been a great advocate for UNICEF and its programs.

I think it will be a blast to run this race with him and was very much looking forward to enjoying the day, the sites and the crowds with him.

Enter --   the Other Hand:   Hurricane Sandy certainly left a mess not only in the city and along the coast, but deep in to many peoples lives, homes and psyches.  I feel a little bad about running a "fun' event when others aren't feeling that life so "fun" right now.  Under normal circumstances, resources in the City get a little tapped on marathon day.   I'm imagining that, on this marathon day, police will be stretched thinner; water for runners might be better used by people that don't have any; hotel rooms might be better used by people that lost homes.

Do I feel bad enough not to go?

That is the million dollar question.  

We could defer and run next year (at least I can.  I got in via the lottery.  I'm not sure what would happen to Hubby's number or if he'd have to raise money again next year to retain his number.).  We'd both have to pay the registration fee again next year.

Honestly, we feel read to run this year.   We are also ready to pump some money in to NYC economy.   We are talking about trying to find a place to volunteer some of our time on Saturday to help the city.   We think we should go.

What would you do?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finally: the run....

By the time I got out on to the run course, I was ecstatic to say the least.

I had hit my bike time goal getting back in to T2 by 4:30 pm, giving me plenty of time to try to finish the marathon before midnight -- 7 1/2 hours to be exact.
The very first marathon I ever did was Chicago Marathon in 2000.  I had only been running for one year.  I had started this whole "running" thing late (I was in my early 40s) and got sucked in to the marathon mystique after seeing an ad for the Chicago Marathon with a tag line that read something like "Join 40,000 of your close, personal friends".

I turned to Hubby and said "I can't be last of 40,000, can I"?  He said "No" and I signed up.

Up until then, I had really only done some 5 and 10Ks.   I was in a training class that was supposed to focus on helping improve abilities for people that ran 5Ks up to 1/2 marathons.    In reality, it was a class full of experienced and speedy runners who really wanted nothing to do with chubby, old, slow me.  

I didn't tell a soul in that class that I had signed up for Chicago.  I did one long run of 15 miles before the race.  I went in to Chicago under trained, over 
optimistic and fairly naive.  

I finished in 6:47.   

Not a great finish, but a finish and the start to my illustrious running career, which hurtled me in to my even more illustrious triathlon career.

The point behind this walk down memory lane?   That with 7 1/2 hours to complete the IM WI marathon, I was pretty confident that I'd cross the finish line, as I was much more trained, prepared, thinner and ready than I was in 2000, when it took me 6:47.  Even after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112.
My running plan was to get in to a rhythm where I'd run for 3 minutes and then walk for 1 minute. I had done all my long, slow distance runs over the summer using this model successfully.  Greg, my coach, had me do most of my long runs during the week after work.  His logic was that I'd be tired after work (he was right) and I'd be running at night.  Tired and night running were expected for race day (night) so this was perfect. 

The other prep that helped me was knowing  where the mile markers were on the marathon course this year.  While IM WI does not post mile markers on the actual run course, they finally posted them on the course map.  (I am not great at judging distances;  don't always wear my Garmin (I know.  Blasphemy.).

The course map displayed miles by two, starting with 2.  (So it was mile 2, 4, 6 (State Street) turn around:  Then 6, 8 12 (1/2 turn around), repeat).  

Mentally, I knew I could do 8 track laps (or 2 miles).  I knew that, at worse, I could just talk to myself about track laps.

The 3/1 rhythm started out okay and it did "hold" to about mile 6.  I did take a couple of extra long walk breaks, but I did keep a good pattern going. 

My good friend from work -- Mark L, who completed IM WI in 2010 and is doing IM AZ this year, came,  was waiting out near Camp Randall.  The first time I saw him, things were going well.

After mile 6, I started to have my first "real" problem of the day.  I got nauseous.  

This was nothing new, though.   Happened to me in 2010 and 2011.   I had done a good job with my nutrition on the bike and was taking in coke, chicken broth, water on the run, but about mile 7, every thing looked and tasted terrible.   I could not choke down any solids; the coke tasted bad; the chicken broth tasted worse.  

Mark started in on me about eating.  "I know, I know", I said.  But ate nothing.

The rest of the Imoo Crew were staged at various parts of the course and were texting and calling each other.  They all knew that I wasn't eating.  They all chirped in about me taking in something to eat.   It wasn't happening.

I got to the 1/2 wellllllll before the cutoff, which felt fantastic (mentally).  Physically, my stomach was still a mess.

I stopped at Special Needs and grabbed a couple sips from a Coke bottle and took a salted nut roll to carry with me as I trotted  -- okay, walked briskly -- out for the second loop.

I had so looked forward to that silly salted nut roll bar.  I love them.  They are delicious.  I reserve them only for races, so they are a very special treat.  

Now, the thought of this salted nut roll bar was nauseating.   I was hoping that, at some point, things would turn around and I'd be able to eat it.

I kept run/walking (which was now more walk, walk, walk/run/walk walk walk) along the course.  Natalie found me and was so encouraging -- I fessed up to her that I was starting to get worried about the cut offs.... She assured me that I had nothing to worry about; that there was plenty of time.

I got back to State Street for the second loop and saw Greg and his girlfriend Devon there.  Greg finished in 10:14.  Yes, 10:14.  His swim was 53 minutes.  His bike was great.  He had a little 'struggle' on the run, and finished in TEN FOURTEEN.   Then he showered, changed, ate and came out to see me on the course.  (See why I like him so much???)

He ran with me for a block or two, providing a much needed pep talk (including "eat something").  (Yes, he ran after he finished his IM in 10:14.  He is a great coach).

I got back out on to the Lakeshore Path and Gary was waiting for me.   We walked along and all of a sudden, Hubby and Mark were there too.  EVERYONE was telling me to eat something.  I just wasn't having it.

I finally tried to eat my salted nut roll.  It didn't taste good and I didn't have much saliva at the time to help chew/swallow it.  I ended up spitting out most of it and throwing the bar out for the critters along the path.

Mark and Gary peeled off about mile 21 to head back to the finish.  Hubby stayed with me and was chiding me to eat.  I finally snapped at him a bit.   "ENOUGH WITH THE EATING".   I didn't mean to snap, I was just tired of hearing people to tell me to eat, when I just wanted to throw up. Or poop.

Oh!  Maybe that would help!  So, I told Hubby to go back to the finish and I hit the portapotty.  That actually helped a bit.   Got back out on to the loneliest part of the course -- the on the Lakeshore Path from Walnut Street out to Lake Mendota Drive.

This year, there were plenty of other runners around me, and most of us were walking.   I started to do the math in my head again and the light bulb clicked on, in glorious bright, neon flashing colors:  even if I didn't run one more step, I had plenty, plenty, plenty of time to cover 4.6 miles before midnight.


I did run, though.  I ran from one light pole to the next; then walked one light pole to the next; then ran, then walked until I got back to Walnut Street.

I spotted some Cheezits on the aid table.

"CHEEZITS?"   My brain said: "They look delicious!"

One of the volunteers had brought the box to the station to share with other volunteers.  (Cheezits are not an official "ironman" snack...).  I asked if I could have some and the volunteer cheerfully poured some in to my hand.

HEAVEN.  Nutrition!  Maybe better said: Calories.   

The combination of knowing I was going to finish in time and having something to eat -- finally -- lifted my mood in a big way.

So did seeing Hubby again on Walnut Street.  He had waited for me after I told him to go back to the finish.... he tells me that the difference between when the time I left him to when I found him again was like night and day.   I was much chippier, had more bounce in my step and he knew that I would finish too.

He did have to leave me to take the short cut back to the finish.  I just kept trotting along back to the Capital.  I saw Mark one last time near the stadium.  I got to see Marcia for a  little bit on the last stretch down Dayton.   I ran in to another work friend, Jeff, as I was reaching State Street.  Jeff and a couple of his friends had come down to Madison to volunteer so they could sign up for the 2013 race.   He is a super triathlete and has always been very supportive of my slow, plodding efforts.  

I got to Capital Square and knew it was only a few turns and I'd be at the finish.  I still couldn't quite muster a run, but just walked along as quickly as I could.   

I saw Tiffany S -- another superstar athlete, who called me over to give me a big hug. 

I saw Natalie's smiling face peering around a corner.  I went to give her a great big hug.

Right before the last turn, Gary was there.  Again, another huge hug.

I took that last turn and started to run.  I saw the finish banner and I tried as hard as I could to just open myself up to the experience of running down the chute.  There were lots of people lined up on both sides;  lots of cheering;  Lots of lights. 

I listened for Mike Reilly to call out my name, but didn't hear a thing.  (I think it was too loud or I was just in a daze).

I crossed the line jumping for joy.  Literally.  There are photos of me jumping up and down.  

Mike and Jenny Wimmer, my bloggy and IM friends, who had started the morning as wet suit strippers, were there at the finish voluteering as catchers.

It was really wonderful to have them there for me at the end.  Big hugs; big smiles.  

I got my hat, my shirt, my medal.  My finisher picture and then 'poof' it was back out the finish exit to find Hubby and the Imoo Crew.

I felt GREAT.  Tired but great.  It took three years, a lot of time, sweat and dollars, but I was -- I am --  finally an IRONMAN!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dreamin' Part II

(Okay, okay. I know this is a very long race report.  Still trying to hold on to every memory of every turn of ever second from that day.  That is just how much fun I had!)

Continuing then:

Clipped in at the bike start line at the top of the helix and enjoyed the coast winding down the spiral, getting adjusted in the seat; making sure my sunglasses were where I wanted them to be; making sure my bento box was velcroed shut.

Although it was sunny, it was still cool at 9:00 am but I made sure to have my bike jersey zipped and my arm warmers pulled up.   I just settled in to a pedaling rhythm heading out on John Nolan Drive.  There were a few other bikers around me... a couple of guys and a woman.  Most were just taking their time getting in to the groove. 

There is a turn off the parkway that becomes a single lane, no pass zone that leads riders to the Alliant Energy Center (which, back in the day was known as the Dane County Coliseum.   I saw Bruce Springsteen there when I was in college.  I wonder if my down jacket is somewhere in the Lost and Found room there....  I digress....).

The race officials harp on this as a no pass zone at the pre-race meeting.  There is plenty-o-information about this section written up in Athlete materials, etc.  And yet, on race morning, some idiot trys to flex his testosterone around by passing me and the very slow man in front of me as we are riding under the tunnel.

I called him out on this, saying "Hey Dude -- no pass -- you don't want that penalty this early!'.  

He mea culpaed, but still zipped right on by.  Whaddya do?

In my last post, I talked about elements on race day feeling very routine.  This is exactly how the bike felt for me.  Routine.  Normal.  Regular.  Could have ridden that course with my eyes shut.  (Okay.  Maybe not.)

I had been to Madison every month from March on riding that bike course.   My coach had me riding it as the stick; the stick and one loop; two loops; the whole course and,every now and then,  even threw in a couple of "okay, when you are done with Midtown Road (the last of the three bitches), turn around and ride back to Old Sauk (the first bitch) and then ride them again.   Just for FUN!  (My coach has a 'funny' sense of humor).

I had also decided to break down the course in to very managable distance chunks.  In years past, I had thought of the course as the stick and the loop.  This year, the stick had five parts: 
1) Monona out to Whalen Road 
2& 3) Two stop signs on Whalen Road
4) Seeing the Verona Water Tower out the distance
5) passing across old PB to get in to the loops

The loop(s) got broken down by:
First yucky turn up followed by nice zip down and around Valley Road
Easy aero stretch along Hwy G
Mt. Horeb (big hill)
Witte Road rollar coaster
Garfoot windy wonderfulness
Easy aero stretch in to Cross Plains
Stagecoach to stage for the three big hills
Old Sauk Pass
nice long aero stretch from there
Midtown Road
Stretch back to Verona

Staring in July, there was construction on the course that diverted the route away from Mt Horeb (yet another fun hill, but not quite as bitchy.  Long, but not quite as steep).  There were two detours to choose from.  You could go one way, which included a bunch of big, nasty hills, including one on Norwegian Trail (would you expect less from a name like that???).  The other way had less, big nasty hills, so it became my detour route of choice....

The point is is that I rode those hills a billion times over the summer.  AND rode the hills of Menominee, Wisconsin, as part of the Nature Valley Family Fun weekend, where riders could ride the same routes as the professionals taking part in the Nature Valley Grand Prix.  (Great event, by the by.... hills were tough and the day was hot, humid and rainy, so it was perfect IM traning, right?).  AND rode the hills at Hillfest bike festival.   So.  This year, those three bitches (and their "scenic rolling" cousins that make up 90% of Ironman Wisconsin's bike course had nothing on me!

I only say that partly tongue in cheek.   Hills are tough.  Period.  But I've learned that even the Pros go slow up most of them.  I've learned that I just have to gear down and pedal up them.  I've learned that you DO get up them and eventually there IS a down hill where you can just enjoy.

I was in a very good mood for most the first loop.  I felt strong and comfortable.  I drank something -- usually Infinit -- about every 15 mintues and ate a little something -- either a little bit of a Bonk Breaker, or a Fig Newton or a gummi bear --  about every 17 minutes.  I chatted a little bit with other riders as I passed them.  

I got to Special Needs with an average of about 15.84 miles, which was very, very good for me (considering the hills).  

During training, when I'd be out in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, I'd stop at one of the many Casey's -- a gasoline station/convenience store combo -- located throughout the state.  The pitstops allowed me to use the bathroom, get more water/gatorade and food.  I found that plain, boring dull turkey sandwiches were morphed in to super delicious, best meal I'd had in hours, morsels of goodness.  Besides filling my belly, I discovered during those training rides that I tolerated them very well as I continued the ride.  No GI distress; no nauesa; no problems.

When packing my  IM WI  bike bag, I decided to pack half a turkey sandwich, which I DEVOURED when I got to special needs.   It was perfect.  I had gotten a little tired of the Fig Newtons/Bonk Breakers/Gummis nutrition plan.  Having something different -- and tested -- to eat was great.

Although I had a tiny nag in my head about the second loop (and I remembered all too well how lousy I felt  pulling out of special needs and riding towards the second loop in 2010), I told that nag to shut up and I pedaled off with some confidence.

I was wearning a GPS device from  This allowed people to find me all along the course.  It was great for Natalie, Warren and Lance, because they could find me on the course to see me a number of times.  It was a GREAT boost to see them and have them cheer for me.

I stopped a couple of times on the second loop. Once to get water to refill some nutrition; twice to quickly stretch my back.  But the second loop went astonishingly well.

By the time I hit the turn back on to Whalen to go back in to Madison, was smiling from ear to ear.  I had really ridden well and was confident that my bike time would be much better, which would afford me more time on the run.

The only slightly unfortunate part about the ride back was that we headed straight in to a headwind for most of the last seven miles....but again, since I had trained in wind all summer, this was less of an issue for me than I had feared.

I rode back in to transition 7 hours, 29 minutes and 53 seconds after leaving it. One hour and one minute FASTER than I rode in 2011.

My friends Gary, Marcia and Marty were volunteering in the T2 bag area, so I got big cheers from them as I came in to change for the run.

Marcia came in to the change area with me and helped me get set up (dry clothes, water belt, etc).   I started out for the run but had enough time that I stopped for a quick, three minute massage focused on my lower back.  H E A V E N.

Then out the door, porta potty break and on to the run.   I saw Warren, Natalie and Lance right out of the gate, chatted with them as I walked along and then broke in to my (hoped) 3 minute run/1 minute walk routine. 

The night was still young!